Toyota Primes Its New 120MPGe Plug-in Hybrid Prius

You’ll be excused for bypassing the new Toyota Prius Prime’s headline fuel economy rating of 120MPGe that’s expected to top all production plug-in hybrids, and focusing on its revamped looks. We sure did.

If you haven’t noticed, Toyota has been trying to shake off its ‘beige’ image lately, bringing more emotion to the brand through livelier designs – you may not fall in love with their newest cars, but they won’t go by unnoticed either, something that applies to the new Prime member of the Prius family.

To distance it from the plain hybrid Prius, Toyota’s designers went all Acura NSX with the Prime’s front that now features pinched quad LED headlights, a new grille and a heavily sculpted bumper – and yes, the end result is more complicated than biochemistry pathway chart. They finished up the exterior makeover at the back by swapping the tear-drop-style tail lamps for a unibrow-style unit.

Some changes were made inside too, with Toyota giving the Prius Prime additional premium touches highlighted by the very-Tesla like 11.6-inch tall, high-definition central infotainment screen and an available full color head-up display, while a number of functions, such as checking the charging schedule and remotely activating the air-condition system, are available through a smartphone app.

It also gets the Toyota Safety Sense suit that packages the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beam.

Strangely, Toyota chose to discard the middle rear seat turning the Prime into a four-seater, separating the two rear passengers with a console.

Of course, the prime reason why you would go for this version of the Prius in the first place is the improved efficiency and the increased battery-only driving range. Toyota estimates that the Prime will get 120 or above MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) offering a total range in excess of 600 miles (965 kilometers), and a pure electric range of 22 miles, which is double what the previous Prius PHEV offered, but it’s slightly behind Hyundai’s new Ioniq PHEV that is said to return over 25 miles.

To get these numbers, Toyota’s engineers doubled up on the older Prius plug-in hybrid’s battery capacity, with a new 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged in approximately 5.5 hours using a standard household outlet or half the time with a 240V source. The Prime is also the first Toyota model to feature dual motor generator drive system that uses both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, to boost acceleration. The electric drive system is paired to the familiar 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with a planetary-gear continuously variable transmission (CVT).

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  • Tumbi Mtika

    Toyota Prius. Now with mustache.

  • MultiKdizzle

    It’s styling is better than the standard Prius. But that’s a low bar.

    And the back is awful.

  • Joe

    Why only four seats? That made me stop considering getting one.

    • Dexbot

      4 seats because with the testing, they couldn’t hit their efficiency goals with 5 occupants. They could easily achieve their efficiency goals with 4 occupants, so 4 it is.

  • Jeremytallman

    Totally agree Joe (@disqus_9fhejXVac0) I am sick of “Luxury” equaling, Less Seats, especially in top trim levels of a given vehicle model.

    I saw the Prius Prime and went, COOL! Then I saw the rear “coupe” seats! Grrr.

    As a current Toyota Sienna SE owner who wanted the Limited; but needed 8 seats, I hope the Prime has a Fully Loaded 5 seat option; but I doubt it.

  • S3XY

    Tesla esque touchscreen

  • jameskatt

    Looks like a Honda Civic – last year’s model.
    Looks like a bad Toyota Mirai – retrofitted to remove the hydrogen fuel engine.

  • Matthijs

    Better but still hideous. They just do as much as they can to make it special. But there is no real balance. Just an overdesigned car.

  • Kaptnkauto

    Toyota, Acura called, they want their head lights back!

  • Stephen

    Needs more lights.

  • rnc


  • ME

    AWD should have been standard. But honestly, the Chevy Bolt more appealing. Will also need to see what the Tesla III is all about. By now Toyota should have ditched hybrid and been able to compete as a fully electric contender.

  • Dexbot

    I love the interior. It looks so modern. I wish it supported Car Play on the stereo like the new Volt and upcoming Bolt from Chevy, but seeing as how Toyota has agreed to work with the open-source Smart Device Link system instead, it (hopefully) won’t be a problem. The exterior styling looks a lot better than the previous “aerodynamic jelly bean” styling! I really like it.

    I have one problem: the EV range.

    This is a plug-in hybrid, so I won’t compare it to BEV’s. That’d be like comparing apples to oranges. Instead, I’ll compare it to another plug-in hybrid from the same model year: The 2017 Chevy Volt… no, that’s not fair.

    How about the 2011 Chevy Volt? Still not fair but it’s the best I can do.

    The 2011 Volt could get 25-50 miles of EV only range. This is already better than the Prius Prime. It was $33,500 after the $7,500 federal discount which is a price point I see the Prius Prime going for when they announce pricing.

    As far as total range goes, the Prius Prime wins with its 11.3 gallon tank vs the 2011 Volt’s 9.3 gallon tank. It can even extend this range slightly if you use the regen brake button on the steering wheel to slow down.

    The 2017 Volt offers a 53-mile EV only range and 420 mile total range with a smaller 8.9 gallon gas tank. It also supports Car Play and maintains the regen brake button.

    It is sad to see that a company known for innovation in “Green” cars is falling behind a company known for “American Muscle” and trucks. Toyota needs to step up their game if they want to stay alive.